Television/radio host and author Tavis Smiley recently hosted a conversation on what he is calling this “post-racial” era, asking the question, “Is there a need for a black agenda?”
The program – “We Count: The black agenda is the American agenda” – took place March 20 at Chicago State University on the South Side, inside the school’s auditorium named for President Obama’s mentor Emil Jones, and his wife, Patricia. White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett was reportedly invited to attend but didn’t make it. Panelists included Louis Farrakhan, Nation of Islam leader; Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rainbow/PUSH founder; and former Chicago alderman Dorothy Tillman.
Chicago’s WVON radio personality Matt McGill of the Matt & Perri Show was featured Monday, March 22, on CNN and the host posed the questions, “The black agenda: What is it? And should President Obama have one and if so, to what extent?”
McGill added, “I think black people want to hear the president address issues that are unique to the African-American community: high incarceration rate, unemployment. When you talk about housing, these are issues – the numbers are disproportionately high in the African-American community.”
Smiley said, “It’s not about President Barack Obama. It’s about the office of the presidency. It is about leaders and the black agenda. And it should be about the agenda and not about the personalities.”
Also featured was Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been in a somewhat “loving disagreement” with Tavis regarding this issue. He said, “I agree with what Matt just said. I think that a lot has been done. A lot needs to be communicated. What I have taken issue with is that when you have black leadership, whether it’s the Congressional Black Caucus, whether it’s civil rights leaders, some of us who met with the president around black unemployment, then you can’t turn around and say there are black leaders telling him don’t deal with black issues.”
This past December President Obama was on American Urban Radio Networks and stated, “I’m the president of the entire United States. What I can do is make sure that I am passing laws that help all people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and most in need. That, in turn, is going to help lift up the African-American community.”